By: Julia Dondero
Last May, collegiate team ropers Riley Kittle and Jace Helton bested the field of high-caliber ropers to take home the Rodeo Corpus Christi victory and accompanying surfboard. This October, the duo looks to replicate their success as Rodeo Carolina quickly approaches.
In search of their second consecutive win, whispers of another Triple Crown of Rodeo success story have begun circulating, adding to the growing anticipation for the most prosperous rodeo east of the Mississippi River. However, for the young duo from Weatherford College, it is an opportunity to compete at one of the most significant stages in their young career.
Growing up in Southern California roping with his family and younger brother Hunter Helton–who is also chasing his professional rodeo dreams, Jace Helton moved to Texas in 2020 to pursue his roping goals. As a senior studying Organizational Leadership at Weatherford College, Helton will graduate this Spring and looks to continue to make a living pursuing his passion.
In his first year of college, he met one of his closest friends and roping partner, Riley Kittle.
“I started roping with Riley my Freshman year and we have been best friends since. We have similar outlooks on life and roping, we have fun roping together,” said Helton, who also joked the duo is often found on the golf course, if not in the arena together.
Winning Rodeo Corpus Christi together ranks high on the roper’s resumes, explaining the event provided them with the confidence and momentary momentum for the Summer run.
“It’s crazy we have this big of an opportunity to compete at rodeos like Corpus Christi and Rodeo Carolina. In Corpus Christi, we went home with almost $20,000, there are not many opportunities with no entry fees like that.” said the 20-year-old heeler.
Helton also reflected on the caliber of opportunities afforded by the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA), explaining the experience has provided the duo with valuable knowledge as the duo looks to make the jump from collegiate to full-time professional rodeo.
As the duo of best friends looked to capture their second consecutive WCRA Triple Crown of Rodeo victory, Helton expressed his excitement for the upcoming event.
“We are excited to rope in North Carolina. The opportunities there are amazing. We just have to focus on roping our best and seeing how it all plays out.” Helton explained that his game plan as a heeler is primarily based on reacting to the situation at hand.
This week, all eyes will be on the duo at the Tryon International Equestrian Center as the young cowboys back into the box with their sights set on a second WCRA Triple Crown of Rodeo victory.